By Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP
Do you wince every time you look at your electricity bill? Do you shudder when you get your fuel bill? You’re not alone. Energy costs are one of the major plant expenditures. According to the NPCA 2013 Benchmarking Report, plant operating expenses, which include costs for utilities, run about 7.5% of total production costs. This is an average based on plant size and location.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2007, the pipe and precast/prestressed industries spent more than $200 million on energy. Of this, 48% was spent on fuel and 52% on electricity. There were variations in the type and the amount of energy used in precast concrete plants across the United States, but the most energy-intensive step is curing, which accounted for nearly 44% of the energy consumed. Light trucks operating on site were responsible for 32% of the overall energy consumed at the plant site. Electricity use throughout the plant was about 17% of overall energy consumption.
It is important now more than ever to make energy management a priority. It can definitely save you money, and it can make you more sustainable by reducing your plant’s impact on the environment.
The struggle is to make improvements in energy efficiency without negatively affecting product quality and yield. The best way to do this is by implementing a plant-wide energy management program. Here are some tips on how to get your program off the ground:
1. Create an energy team. A strong and creative energy team can be the core of a successful energy program. Building this team engages and empowers your employees to plan, benchmark, implement, monitor and evaluate your plant’s energy management program. The team would also be responsible for training, communicating results and providing recognition.
2. Benchmark. When you go on a weight loss program, what do you do first? Weigh yourself, right? That’s your benchmark, and hopefully that number will go down. Every successful program starts with a benchmark. Call your utility provider and ask for an energy audit. Many energy providers are more than willing to help customers conserve energy and will offer to perform an audit free of charge. They may also provide ideas on possible conservation areas. Florida Power and Light and Wisconsin’s Alliant Energy are just two of many large energy providers that provide this service at no cost.
3. Identify and fill the gaps. Based on the findings of your energy audit and of your plant energy team, identify the energy management practices that may be missing. Start with the low-hanging fruit to see quick results.
Lighting is usually a great place to begin. Only a small part of the energy used in a lighting fixture results in lighting; the remainder is lost as heat. So, even when lighting is a relatively small part of a plant’s energy use, it may be possible to find considerable energy savings from using more efficient lighting systems. Lifetime of a lamp should also be considered, as a long lamp life also reduces maintenance costs.
Repairing leaking ducts and adding some insulation to the building envelope can also bring some immediate and substantial savings.
4. Raise awareness and engage employees. Employees are the heart of your energy program, and not just the ones on your energy team. All employees must be involved, so first, they must be made aware of the value of energy efficiency and how they can participate. Reward those who come up with best ideas.
If you do not currently have an energy management program, there is no reason not to start one now. There are many tools available from your utility providers and from Energy Star at energystar.gov/buildings, including a report that was issued in 2011 that could be helpful.
Also, please feel free to contact Claude Goguen at [email protected] or at (317) 571-9500 for information on this or any other sustainability-related topic.
Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP, is NPCA’s director of Sustainability and Technical Education.
Special Consulting Services for NPCA Members
If your company is located in a deregulated energy market, you may be able to save on energy costs through a contracted purchasing arrangement with APPI Energy. NPCA endorses APPI as its exclusive energy consulting firm for members.
APPI’s energy experts will analyze your energy consumption and provide consultation services, including negotiating, contracting and monitoring supply. APPI also provides a variety of resources that can be used to train employees. For more information, visit appienergy.com.
“Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities for the Concrete Industry,” December 2011, Katherine Kermeli, Ernst Worrell, Eric Masanet, Energy Analysis Department, Environmental Energy Technologies Division, Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720